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Seasoning disaster with aluminum

I think I've read every post on the web to make sure I was up-to-date on the convetional wisdom on seasoning an aluminum pan.

I had a perfectly good and decently seasoned professional aluminum saute pan that a friendly house guest vigorously washed in soap (thanks!). So, I reseasoned by wiping the cleaned, heated pan with grapeseed oil (high smoke point) and putting upside down in a 350-degree oven for an hour, then letting it cool.

To start using it, I warmed it up and put in a bit of oil like I always do for cooking an ege and it glued itself to the pan.

What did I do wrong. This pan worked better than Teflon before I decided to "fix" it.

Thank you in advance -- but I am well-aware of just about every technique out there. I can't try them all. I am just wondering if it would help if I did this routine several times, or perhaps I needed to let it sit over night, or cool overnight?

Thanks for any help.

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  1. I confess, I've never heard of seasoning an aluminum pan...

    1. I hadn't either until recently when I got a new 10 qt professional weight aluminum dutch oven at the restaurant supply house. Lo and behold! The instructions said: Season it and gave pretty much the same procedure as for a cast iron pan. I figured I had nothing to lose.
      The first time I used it, it was great. No sticking at all. Cleans up like a non-stick pan. I even let food dry in it overnight once after a party and it cleaned in a flash. No discoloration and I just cooked a tomato sauce this weekend.
      Whether it would have been the same without the seasoning is anybody's guess. I'm just a good girl who follows directions.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MakingSense

        OK, great. Thanks. Can you tell what directions they gave you?

      2. I wonder if I should be letting it dry overnight?

        1. From the directions, the seasoning seems to be intended mostly to prevent discoloration:
          Wash and dry. Coat inside w/light cooking oil, heat slowly until quite hot but "before smoke is visible" (whatever that means.) Turn off heat and let cool. Repeat oiling/heating process. Empty pot when cool and clean with cold water.
          The manufacturer gave a lot of instructions about discoloration due to everything from high alkali foods to boiling plain water.

          I have not used any of my aluminum for cooking eggs with the exception of one calphalon skillet that is used for eggs and only eggs. Sacred rule. Hidden when there are house guests. I put a cheap non-stick in plain view so they can do whatever they want. If they screw that one up, it's no loss. I'll throw it away and buy a new $8 one.

          1. I wonder if that is real? Seasoning aluminum! :-/

            I think it is a mistake (or major translational catastrophe) someplace along the line that someone confused the materials with the cast iron counter parts.

            True story happened about 4+ years ago a when a neighbor of mine got a set some soft handled, plain aluminum, pots and pans. They too had instructions to season them and when she did, the handles melted, almost ruining her oven.

            I could not believe that the instructions would state that, but it did. I went over the instructions about a dozen times till it hit. One sentence stated something to the effect _the aluminum pan is made out of a naturally porous material_. I went Bingo! Someone must have did a cut and paste job with cast iron instructions. Plus there was no mention of removing the handles.

            She, somehow settled the matter to her satisfaction after contacting the company.

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            1 Reply
            1. re: RShea78

              Nope. No translation problem. Made in America. Eagleware Mfg. Co. Inc., Rancho Dominguez, CA., USA.
              My pan is professional aluminum from the restaurant supply store, NSF aluminum. Terrific pan.
              This was the first time I had ever heard of seasoning aluminum either. My other stuff is discolored but since I seasoned this one, it hasn't discolored.
              Maybe your neighbor had bought some lower quality Made-in-China stuff. I have some Latin American stuff with really soft handles that might not survive really high oven heat.

            2. This is my first time on this message board, but it has been interesting so far!

              Yes, you do season cast aluminum. No, my problem is not melting handles.

              My question is why the "coating" of oil is coming out so tacky. I nomrally have put oil in the pan on the stovetop and heated it up cose to the smoking point and then dumped it out and wiped it. Perfect. I have just never felt comofortable having that much oil near smoking point near an open flame, so I tried some of the oven methods -- with the poor results as noted.

              11 Replies
              1. re: SkipII

                Major problem is with almost every type of vegetable oil and shortening is they break down and leave a form of a "shellac-like" residue that is hard to get off the surface. I simply find vegetable fats unsuitable for seasonings and use pure hog lard on my cast iron.

                Seasoning Aluminum? Guess the jury of better than 40 years is out on that one.

                My granny claims just wipe it down with lard but do not try to bake it in. If she uses any vegetable fats it get a good scrubbing.

                I say why even buy aluminum in the first place. I have 1 stock pot and some antiques. I do from time to time get those 1/2 size aluminum bake sheets but I do line them. Other than that I restrict my aluminum purchases.

                In reality vegetable and animal fats are extremely bad for aluminum in the first place. Reactions, perhaps toxic ones, is brewing in them so I scrub the heck out of the ones I have left. (Before and after use)

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                1. re: RShea78

                  Thank you for the relevant response. I live in KY and actually cannot find lard at the grocery store any more. I think I'll do the Crisco routine but then lightly fry up some lard-laden bacon I have in the fridge. My stovetop method worked great, so I guess my trade-off risk is between a stove fire or cholestrol!

                  Seasoning aluminum? Yes, any chef who uses aluminum seasons it.

                  Why use aluminum? It responds best to subtle changes in heat, needed when I am making things like omelettes. It is the only aluminum pan I have and it is reserved for that purpose. The other is a cast-iron skillet for the obvious (searing, cornbread, etc.) and the rest of stainless.

                  Thanks for your help.

                  1. re: SkipII

                    Geez, no lard in KY? Perhaps, Fort Knox is storing the stuff in vaults, along with the gold? <just kidding.>

                    I am just slightly north of KY in IN so it rattles me a bit that 2 local lard producing states would allow the stuff to disappear. I don't know of any store here that would be out. Anyway bacon has salts, water, and other minerals that attracts moisture and promote oxidation. Although a local old timer claimed that after 60 some years of using his favorite cast iron skillet, bacon fat can put holes the size of dimes in cast iron.

                    Ok, I did pick up on a clip of info from Globe Equipment. I still disagree in using vegetable fats.

                    http://www.globeequipment.com/Product...

                    > > Seasoning Aluminum and Stainless Steel Cookware

                    Season cookware before its first use. Clean and dry cookware. Spray the inside of the pan lightly with vegetable oil or use a small amount of shortening. Place cookware on burner at medium for 5-10 minutes, until light smoke or heat waves appear. When the oil/shortening turns a deep amber color, turn the burner off and allow to cool. Pour out liquid oil/shortening and wipe down pan with paper towels until all oil/shortening is removed. Cleaning with a mild soapy solution after each use will not affect the “seasoning” of the pan. Ok to repeat this procedure as often as needed without doing damage to the cookware. < <

                    Aluminum seems a bit different. I would actually call that tempering the pan rather than seasoning them. Also it isn't an oven process but done via stovetop,

                    BTW- I agree that aluminum reacts rather quickly, however I will use only a NSF listed coated pan or cast iron around eggs.

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                    1. re: SkipII

                      Actually, copper responds best to temperature changes. It's quite a bit more expensive than aluminum, of course.

                      1. re: SkipII

                        I was looking for lard in Kentucky a few years ago while visiting family and couldn't find it anywhere in the supermarket (can't remember if it was Kroger or Meijer's). I asked the guy behind the meat counter and found out that they had it stashed out of sight back there rather than on the shelf. If the meat counter can't help you might want to check if there are any Mexican grocery stores that might be in your area.

                        1. re: LabRat

                          Any place that cuts it own meat will have lumps of back fat you can use.

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            Bingo - you can make your own (sometimes for free) with fat rendered in a crockpot overnight.

                    2. re: SkipII

                      "My question is why the "coating" of oil is coming out so tacky"

                      I'll address this part of it. Oils break down (polymerize) under high heat and turn into a varnish like substance. Same is true for cooking oil, or automotive motor oil, it's just that the latter has additives to fight that.

                      If you apply too much oil to your pan at one time and try to season it with the pan right side up, it pools in one section of the pan, and turns into a thick gummy glop that'll never harden.

                      A better way is to apply many thin layers of oil, letting each coat harden fully, before building onto it with the next. I don't think lard vs. canola makes a difference, I've had good results from both.

                      The way I do it (OCD alert): rub oil onto the pan with my hand, and wipe off almost all of it with a paper towel. It's really the thinnest hint of oil, not even a slick, per se. Place the pot or skillet *inverted* in a cold oven, turn it to 400F (above the smoke point). Leave the oven on for an hour, then shut it off and leave the pan in there while the oven cools. Because you're using so little oil with each layer, your kitchen won't fill up with smoke. Repeat every day for a week. At the end of that process, you'll have a hard, durable seasoned pan. Takes time, but it works great for me.

                      www.professorsalt.com

                      1. re: Professor Salt

                        Professor,

                        Thanks you for the informed response. I think I was putting too much oil on the pan.

                        As it turns out, since I had to use the pan later this week, I went back to my tried-and-true (though, at times, perious) method of filling the pan with veggie oil and heating it to light smoking-levels.

                        Works perfectly. I cooked an omelette on it at lunch and the egg practically jumped out of the pan.

                        1. re: Professor Salt

                          I've been told to season cast iron by heating to smoking point on the stovetop, then wiping a lightly oiled wad of paper towels over the surface with a pair of tongs, and turning off the heat. Could this be used for aluminium as well? Cheers.

                          1. re: bdforbes

                            I don't agree with the method, but I suppose aluminum would take the seasoning the same as cast iron or carbon steel. Don't know. The only aluminum cookware I have is bakeware, and that's not something I season.

                      2. Seasoning Aluminum Pots and Pans? There are a fair amount of Professional Commercial Grade Aluminum pot sets out there. What's the story with them?...are they preseasoned and what's the general maintenance? What foods should be avoided in them?

                        Stainless Steel or stainless & copper core seem like the better option. What do the professionals think?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: amoncada

                          >> What foods should be avoided in them?

                          I would say sour kraut and smoked sausage from a tramatic childhood experience, amoncada.

                          I was around 10 (circa late 60's) when my mom was making sour kraut and smoked sausage in a Mirro pressure cooker base. (loosely covered, never pressurized) She had that simmering for 30 minutes or so waiting for my dad to come home from work.

                          It was not exactly funny, but rather freaky, that the bottom of the pan literally fell off. I do recall something to do with mom adding in cream of tarter. Dad claimed mom was practicing chemistry without a degree. YMMV

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                          1. re: amoncada

                            Stainless and SS with copper core ARE better but they cost more so they aren't used in most restaurant kitchens. I have some large pans from restaurant supply that I love for infrequent big batch cooking and sure can't see spending big bucks there. I like them so much and they perform so well compared to even my best stuff, that considering the cost, I'm no longer sure it's worth buying the fancy-dancy brands except for looks. The 10 qt. Dutch oven was $42 and its top another $10; try finding that in AllClad or Le Creuset. And these are what restaurants use...

                            This is the first time I have seen the seasoning directions. I did it and this pan has not discolored like my other ones. I cook everything in them, including acid foods like tomato sauces. They are not for food storage however. I wash and dry them like any other pots, including scouring when necessary. I don't put any of my pots into the DW.

                            I think professional aluminum pots provide extremely high value for the money. Just make sure they are NSF grade.
                            BTW, the lids are standard sizes so you only need a few to interchange with all your pots and pans - cuts clutter.

                          2. Well, since I started all this, I thought I better chime in.

                            Yes, uncoated aluminum needs to be seasoned -- and is seasoned routinely by professional cooks. Done well, it is far better than even Teflon -- the food slips right out of the pan.

                            My problem was trying a new method. What works for me -- and worked again when I went back to it in the midst of this debate -- was to mostly fill the pan with a high-temp vegatable oil (peanut, grapeseed, etc.)and bring it to barely the smoking point on the stovetop, drain it, let it cool and wipe it clean before any residue gums up. The surface is slicker than Little Richard's hairpiece.

                            1. If you want a non-stick aluminum pan, and it gets pitted or was washed (this is not for non-stick pans but plain aluminum pans). First clean pan in hot soapy water. Dry. Then take a small piece of 1500 grit wet-dry auto sand paper and polish the bottom and sides of the pan with a little bit of oil. Rub out the pits. This should take about 5 minutes or less. Polish, rubbing in circles, both the bottom and side until it is very smooth. Wash out pan and dry and place oil and heat on the top of the stove until it just starts smoking. Cool pan and wipe it dry. Place another spot of oil in pan and heat again until it starts to smoke. Make sure that you have enough oil to coat bottom and side of pan as it heats. Cool. Dry pan and use or store. When using pan heat it up before you put in the oil. Hot pan cold oil make it stick less. If pan still sticks repeat entire procedure. Good Cooking Sam.